Ronald Reagan: Over ‘20,000 Gun Control Laws’ Yet Hinckley Had a Gun

ap edmonds_reagan_assassination
Ron Edmunds/AP

When Democrats pushed gun control in the wake of the March 30, 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life, Reagan responded by pointing out that the “more than 20,000 gun controls” then on the books proved powerless to keep John Hinckley Jr. from possessing a gun.

Reagan’s point was clear–if 20,000 laws had not worked, what could Democrats really hope by increasing the number to 20,001?

Volume XXXIX of the Fordham Urban Law Journal contains David Kopel’s overview of “The Great Control War of the 20th Century.” And that overview includes a look at Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass) push for a ban on Saturday Night Special handguns in the wake of the Reagan’s failed assassination.

Hinckley shot and wounded Reagan as he exited the Hilton Hotel in Washington DC on March 30, 1981. Hinckley used a compact, cheap revolver to carry out the assassination attempt and Kennedy and other Democrats seized on the gun to push for a ban of all cheap handguns that fit the moniker of Saturday Night Special. But Reagan dismissed the gun control push during the first press conference he conducted upon being released from the hospital

The date was June 18, 1981. Reagan responded to reporter’s question on gun control by saying:

[M]y concern about gun control is that it’s taking our eyes off what might be the real answers to crime; it’s diverting our attention. There are, today, more than 20,000 gun-control laws in effect–federal, state and local–in the United States. Indeed, some of the stiffest gun-control laws in the nation are right here in the district and they didn’t seem to prevent a fellow, a few weeks ago, from carrying one down by the Hilton Hotel.

Kennedy’s push for a federal ban on Saturday Night Specials lost traction.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.